In a Nutshell: Origin Protocol allows individuals and businesses to create free decentralized marketplaces using the Ethereum blockchain. These marketplaces are already being used to create decentralized service platforms that are similar to those of popular providers such as Uber and Airbnb — but without transaction fees. The Origin platform unlocks the global economy for over 4 billion people worldwide. And by sharing identities across the platform, users can cultivate positive reputations that follow them to every Origin-based marketplace.
The gig economy has created opportunities for millions of people to earn a living in nontraditional ways without clocking in or going to an office every morning. Whether it’s bartering your skills or services, sharing your home, or driving people around in your car, just about anyone can earn a little money on the side.
Well, maybe not everyone.
As these contractor-based jobs become more attractive around the globe, many major cities and countries have banned services like Uber and Airbnb, claiming that they infringe on the rights of licensed hotels and taxi services. Those bans only work to hurt the millions of providers within the sharing economy — estimated to include 22% of U.S. adults in 2016 alone.
But every problem creates an opportunity, and Origin Protocol believes it’s found the solution for those people who can’t perform their typical contracted work. And if the company’s more than $38 million in investment funding is a sign of things to come, that solution may be closer than you think.
The Origin Protocol is a set of open-source blockchain protocols for buyers and sellers of services, like car sharing or home sharing, to transact on a decentralized, open-web platform. The free-to-create marketplaces already help thousands of people around the globe continue their contracted work through legal means while transacting in cryptocurrency to earn a living.
“We’re creating a blockchain platform to enable anyone to easily create decentralized marketplaces,” said Austin Virts, Marketing and Growth at Origin. “Our main component, as we are a protocol, is essentially allowing anyone to build on top of us.”
Untapped Potential: Creating an Interconnected Ecosystem
A substantial group of partners already leverage the open-source Origin Protocol to host their own decentralized marketplaces that range from home sharing to a services marketplace that supports workers in developing countries.
But Virts explained that the protocol has far more untapped potential.
“The overall mission is to create an ecosystem of interconnected decentralized marketplaces,” he said. “But not strictly in the sense of buying and selling — think decentralized ridesharing or decentralized Airbnb — that all share a common identity protocol.”
Identity sharing will be a key factor in Origin Protocol’s future success. Virts said the company envisions a day when its reputation-tracking abilities will help people in developing countries create their own version of a credit score.
“The benefit to this is if you sign up for one of the decentralized Ubers that will be built on top of us, and let’s say you’re a really good rider and you get a ton of really good reviews, and you want to later go and sell on one of our decentralized platforms, your reputation goes along with you,” Virts said.
Origin is currently built on the Ethereum blockchain, using the Interplanetary Filing System (IPFS). The completely decentralized and open-sourced platform prides itself on its accessibility to any interested individual, programmer, or business.
“Currently, everything we do is open,” Virts said. “All of our company chats are 100% out in the open on Discord. All of our code is available to download on GitHub.”
White-Label Tools with No Fees or Middlemen
Anyone can create a free marketplace on Origin with no coding or blockchain knowledge required. Interested users simply fill out a three-page form with basic information about the desired look and feel for your marketplace, and the rest is plug and play.
“We have a white-label marketplace creator tool that allows you to do your own branding and color scheme,” Virts said. “From there, you can link your DNS (Domain Name System) to whatever domain you currently own, and within 15 minutes, you can have a fully decentralized marketplace up and running.”
Origin currently hosts a sample marketplace where potential users can scroll around and get a feel for the user experience. But Virts said regular updates continue to improve the usability of existing and future marketplaces.
“We’re constantly building out the project, so it’s definitely a work in progress,” Virts said. “But it’s completely functional at this point and getting better all the time.”
Origin users can operate a two-sided marketplace where other users can list their services or accommodations. They also have the option to create a one-sided storefront to sell their services or merchandise.
“It’s like Shopify, but the only difference is that there are no fees and no middlemen,” Virts said. “You’re dealing directly with the buyer and seller on either end.”
And the absence of middlemen means no service fees, which often claim as much as 30% of a user’s profits. To accomplish this truly peer-to-peer experience while maintaining buyer and seller confidence, Origin created a unique way of holding funds during a transaction.
“Everything is held in arbitration,” Virts said. “You make an offer on an item and the seller either accepts or denies the offer. Once they accept the offer, the funds are put into an escrow.”
After an offer is accepted, the seller then ships the item or completes the service. Once there is confirmation of a completed transaction, Origin releases the funds to the seller.
“And it’s important to note that we charge absolutely no fees,” Virts said.
Connecting the Unbanked to the Global Economy
Origin’s business methods may raise some eyebrows, as charging no fees to access or use the protocol doesn’t seem like the smartest way to make money. But Virts insists the company’s intentions are about more than profits.
“There are currently 5 billion people in the world who don’t have bank accounts and can’t participate in the global economy,” he said. “But you don’t need a bank account to get cryptocurrency. We’re opening the global economy to these people.”
Virts pointed to Origin’s substantial work in South America as the start of its mission to unite the billions of unbanked or underbanked consumers who have the same needs as their banked peers, but lack access to the global marketplace.
Thanks to decentralized storefronts and the token economy, many of these people find relief from various issues that ail their local currency.
“We’re currently working on initiatives in Venezuela, where we’re helping merchants set up crypto payments,” Virts said. “That way, all of the people there who are dealing with the hyperinflation issues can convert their money into crypto and buy and sell and get the goods that they need without having to deal with the consequences of inflation.”
“There are currently 5 billion people in the world who don’t have bank accounts and can’t participate in the global economy … We’re opening the global economy to these people.” — Austin Virts, Marketing and Growth at Origin
One of Origin’s first partners, ServisHero, is a Malaysia-based domestic services platform that helps connect consumers to area service providers — many of whom are independent, contract-based workers.
Origin is also deeply involved with helping residents of developing countries learn about economic technologies that could help them limit their exposure to troubled local currencies.
“We’re conducting educational classes to teach communities about crypto, how it’s used, and the benefit of it,” Virts said. “Since it’s a fairly new technology, a lot of people are unfamiliar with it.”
Decentralized Crypto Liquidation, Home Sharing, and More
Aside from individual service providers, Origin also partners with larger startups that see the value of the platform in conducting decentralized, peer-to-peer transactions without service fees and other charges.
This includes Zoidcoin, an up-and-coming proprietary payment system based on its ZCN token.
“They use Origin for their Zoidpay, which is a way to turn your crypto into useable ATM cards,” Virts said. “You can order these Zoidpay cards through their marketplace, which they built on top of our protocol, and it’s been going very well for them.”
TRIPS home sharing also enables users to rent rooms or whole homes throughout Europe using the Ethereum cryptocurrency.
Users can place their crypto funds in escrow and communicate with the seller directly through Origin’s decentralized chat system to coordinate the details of their trip.
“They have a whole network, where all of these vacation rentals are being bought and sold directly on the blockchain,” Virts said. “This helps them avoid the ridiculous fees charged by companies like Airbnb, which can sometimes be around 30%.”
Origin’s early adopters have already begun to see the vast possibilities the platform holds for global decentralized marketplaces. To reward those users, the company created — and recently launched — its Origin Rewards program, which earns Origin Tokens for people who use and share the company’s Marketplace DApp.
“People can earn OGN, which is our native token that’s currently locked and not being traded,” Virts said. “This is the first chance for people to get their hands on these tokens, so it’s a pretty big deal.”